13 January 2022
Let's cover something Covenant shepherds are supposed to understand in order to lead the community of faith.
You surely realize that the First Century churches bore a primary obligation to study their Bible (the Old Testament at that point) in order to understand where the Covenant boundaries were. They didn't obey the Law of Moses directly; they were supposed to understand how the Law of Moses worked in the heart. What does this code of law say about God and His moral character, and what does it say about fallen human nature? How do we stay at peace with our Creator? I'm assuming you get that.
Maybe you understand that the Law of Moses raised up a standard that the people of Israel seldom reached. One rather obvious factor is that the Law demanded a high trust factor from the Hebrew people, who were notoriously low-trust by culture. Indeed, we already know for a fact that the presence of trust is partly genetic. So, what overcomes this genetic trait of low social trust? The Spirit of God. If the Hebrew people took seriously the obligations in the code of law, they would eventually discern the heart of God. That much is possible without the Holy Spirit. The heart is a faculty capable of working that way on its own. But this put them in a position to know what it means when God would elect to awaken their spirits.
In Christ, the order is reversed. The Father now awakens spirits first, but then requires His Elect to go back and study the law code to see what it tells them about obedience. What does it look like when the Spirit dominates a heart? It would look something like the Law of Moses in general terms. However, we now have the means and obligation to discern the Law and its intent in our context today. What should it look like with us?
Moses was a national covenant -- for that people, that time, and that place. It applied only to them, in that sense. It never applied to anyone outside their nation. The Covenant of Noah was universal and more generic. The Law of Moses is a specific implementation of Noah. We Gentiles can learn about Noah through Moses. Instead of the Ten Commandments, we have the Seven Noahic Laws. It works out about the same, but my point here is that Noah was clarified by Moses. We are supposed to go back and discern, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, what Moses should mean to Gentiles who fall under Noah.
A primary factor is that some Gentile races are genetically high-trust. That's common among Germanic races, and it shows in the cultural history of Northern Europe. Those cultures and their customs and laws reflect a high-trust society. There are other factors involved, but this business of high and low social trust is quite significant. Northern European legal traditions assume people will feel obliged to watch over themselves and not violate the underlying high level of trust others give you, even when no one is watching.
You won't get that to work too well from low-trust people. Instead, they will enter such a high-trust context and begin preying on everyone else. It's an instinct; it's just one more expression of the Fall. People seek an advantage within any social system. Keep in mind that high-trust people have their own unique brands of sin, too.
In the New Testament, the discussion assumes what can be found in the Mediterranean Basin. The Gentile races there varied from mid-trust to low-trust in nature. Thus, we read a lot about trying to inculcate a high-trust internal moral system, but a low-trust expectation of outside society, and a measure of cynicism about those proclaiming Christ who might be predators. Oddly enough, this was reflected in Roman Imperial policy, in that being trustworthy was a recognized virtue, but Roman laws made room for dealing with the inevitable presence of low-trust predators. With the invasion in later centuries of the Germanic hordes, the laws shifted dramatically due to Germanic high-trust expectations.
I'm not willing to chase rabbits here about how such conflicts turn out, but it should be obvious that Christians should know how the immigration of hordes of low-trust people into a high-trust America has been a disaster, and will only get worse.
As a Covenant shepherd, you should be keenly aware of this factor. Given that the Tower of Babel narrative strongly discourages mixing cultural backgrounds, you should expect in the long run that human nature will tend to cause a divergence in the membership of any body along cultural lines. While the Holy Spirit could dissolve such distinctions, He often doesn't. People are still people, even at their best. Those whom the Lord raises up as elders and pastors are likely more adept on an individual level, but you can't just compel the church body to obey your will. You have to give them room to be themselves as you strive to keep the peace. This is why we make room for some folks to move on eventually.
The church body should function like an extended family household, with everyone acting like they grew up in each other's armpits. The culture within the body should be quite uniform, because there are enough human failures to overcome without multi-cultural conflicts. The body must be one. However, it need not be the same from one body to the next. Each body should have their own unique mix that reflects where they come from and where they are going. The level of social trust must be fairly uniform, or the friction will become a serious threat to shalom. Yet we must strive to become high trust in our hearts.
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